In this 1971 handout of the Centers for Disease Control, monkeypox-like injuries are shown on a child’s arm and legs in Bondou, Liberia.

CDC | Getty Images

Belgium was the first country to introduce a mandatory 21-day quarantine for monkeypox patients, as cases – usually endemic to Africa – are spreading around the world.

Belgian health authorities imposed measures Friday after reporting a third case of the virus. As of Monday, there have been four local cases in the country; There are currently about 100 confirmed global infections.

Mandatory measures in Belgium apply only to patients with a confirmed infection. Close contacts do not require self-isolation, but vigilance is recommended, especially when in contact with vulnerable people.

“Infected people will have to be in contact isolation until the damage heals (they will receive specific instructions from the attending physician),” the translated version of the government statement said.

The UK, meanwhile, has said those at high risk of infection should isolate themselves for 21 days. This includes household contacts or healthcare professionals who may have been in contact with an infected patient.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus – part of the smallpox family – with symptoms including rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, swelling and back pain.

Although it is usually less severe than smallpox, health experts are increasingly concerned about the origins of the recent outbreak that began in early May in countries outside Central and West Africa.

Health authorities, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Infection and the UK Health Agency, said they noted a special concentration of cases among men who have sex with men, and encouraged gays and bisexuals in particular to be aware of any unusual rashes. or defeat.

As of Saturday, the World Health Organization said there were 92 cases in 12 countries and another 28 suspicious cases are being investigated. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands have all confirmed cases.

In this handout of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the symptoms of one of the first known cases of monkeypox virus are shown on a patient’s hand on May 27, 2003.

CDC | Getty Images

The Public Health Authority said the latest reported cases were unrelated to travel from endemic African countries, which is unusual for the disease. It is usually spread through human-to-human or human-to-animal contact.

“Epidemiological investigations are ongoing, but reported cases have not yet been linked to endemic areas,” the WHO said in a statement on its website on Saturday.

“Based on the information available at the moment, the cases were found mainly, but not exclusively, among men who have sex with men (MSM), who seek help in primary care and sexual health clinics,” the statement added.

Probably more cases of monkeypox

The recent surge in cases in the community, especially in urban areas, is now a cause for wider outbreak.

“For this to happen now – more than 100 cases in 12 different countries without an obvious link – it means we need to find out exactly what’s going on,” Seth Berkeley, CEO of the World Gavi Vaccine Alliance, told CNBC on Monday.

“The truth is that we don’t know what it is and therefore how serious it will be. But most likely we will see more cases,” he said.

Although most cases of monkeypox are mild and usually go away within 2-4 weeks, there is currently no proven vaccine. The smallpox vaccine has proven to be 85% effective in preventing infection, and some countries have already started accumulating doses.

Berkeley warned that the new outbreak, which arose even at a time when the existing coronavirus pandemic was “not over yet”, was a warning to authorities to invest more resources in infectious diseases. He spoke on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where political and business leaders gathered this week to discuss key global issues, including pandemic preparedness.

“It’s evolutionarily true that we’ll see new outbreaks,” he said. “That’s why pandemic preparedness is so important. See what it can do economically if you’re affected by a pandemic.”

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